Monday, December 22, 2014

Even The Good Is Ugly

There's nothing left for the 49ers to play for at this point, we already know that. But in an opportunity for them to salvage some pride and knock the Chargers out of the playoffs, the 49ers charged out to a huge lead on Saturday night, ran all over San Diego to the tune of a team-record 355 yard rushing, got an unbelievable 90-yard Touchdown run out of Colin Kaepernick...and still managed to lose the game, blowing their lead thanks to a furious 2nd half charge by Philip Rivers and eventually folding in Overtime after a Quinton Patton fumble. The 38-35 loss marked their 4th loss in a row, their longest such streak in the now-almost-certain-to-be-over Jim Harbaugh era and each loss has underscored the issues with the team to the point where I'm not unconvinced that they haven't just decided as a team to give up and just lick their wounds and come back next year.

The game started out just fine for the 49ers. Frank Gore took off for a 52-yard Touchdown run on the game's 4th play. For Gore, just another forgotten man in this forgettable season, this could be a last hurrah of sorts; as an impending Free Agent and with a good deal of miles on his 32-year old legs, he certainly is approaching the end of the line. But he'd like to come back and it certainly doesn't seem right for a guy who's meant so much to this team to just walk away at the end of a bad season. But that's just another question the team has to address. One of Gore's potential replacements, Bruce Ellington, had a good half as well, running for one Touchdown and catching a second from Kaepernick in the first half, and Antoine Bethea picked off a Philip Rivers pass and returned it for another score, so the 49ers, who hadn't played well in weeks, certainly seemed off to a good start in this game, and went into the half with a 28-7 lead.

And then, of course, the whole thing went to shit.

The Chargers scored a Touchdown midway through the 3rd Quarter that seemed kind of academic. But the 49ers appeared quite happy to hand the Chargers even more on their ensuing possession. First, Kaepernick hit Vernon Davis, who might be even more forgotten than Gore this season, for a 63-yard Touchdown. Great! Davis has just been lost all season, not getting any kind of opportunity or momentum and for a guy who's been one of the real key guys in this offense, you can understand why he might be another player who's more than just a little frustrated and another guy who has a contract situation coming up (when I don't quite remember, but that's besides the point). So for him to catch a TD here seemed good, just to get him involved somehow, but of course there was a holding call on Joe Staley that wiped it out. And on the next play, Kaepernick was sacked, fumbled the ball backwards and was buried when the ball rolled into the end zone and was recovered by the Chargers for a Touchdown.

The 49ers then managed to back themselves up by not returning the ensuing kickoff past the 10 yard line. This was rendered academic when Kaepernick, in yet another example of important parts of the 49ers offense that disappeared for no reason this year, took off on 2nd down under a little pressure, picked up a block and before you could blink was gone for the Touchdown, rushing all of 90 yards without really being touched. It was a career long score for Kaepernick, the 2nd longest run in 49ers History period, and Kaepernick's first Rushing TD of the season. In the next to last game of the season. Kaepernick's bread has mostly been buttered by his running ability and this was the kind of play that underscores how dangerous he can be...except that for whatever reason this kind of a play was absent from his arsenal all year. I've already talked about why but it's another question on that long list of questions.

You can forget the rest of the game. I'd like to. Whereas in prior weeks I was away and unavailable to see the carnage live and ultimately deleted recordings of a couple of games (Seattle and Seattle) mostly unwatched (though I did watch enough of the game in Seattle to see old friend John Olerud raise the 12th Man flag, which was probably the only enjoyable thing about that game), I was actually home for the 2nd half of this one, so I saw everything come apart from there. The Chargers were, at that point, down 35-21 and they scored twice in the 4th Quarter to tie the game. In Overtime, the 49ers started off with the ball and appeared to be well on the move because Quinton Patton, the young receiver who came on strong at the end of the year last year but got lost among the high-priced talent the 49ers brought in this year (and didn't accomplish all that much), gained 20 yards on an end-around on the 2nd play of OT, but then he was stripped by Eric Weddle and the Chargers scooped up the fumble, and ultimately drove down and kicked the winning Field Goal while Philip Rivers ran around screaming with the kind of ferocious intensity that would rival Matt Ryan. And that, friends, is how this game got away.

So, there's now just one game left in this season, a game against the Arizona Cardinals that's similarly meaningless for the 49ers, and kind of meaningless for Arizona, who is in the playoffs and jockeying for position. You'd like to think that the 49ers would show a little bit of juice for this game, but after so many weeks of bumbling, I don't think there's too much to look forward to. Hopefully, I'm wrong.

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